What makes a good school website?

Ive had an email from a reader of ICT Matters magazine who is looking at refreshing their school website.

We have touched on this before and I’m sure regular readers will know there is nothing Techno Geek loves more than the chance to pontificate about how things should be done online but I have decided to throw open the doors on this one to the wider community:

  • What makes a good school website?
  • Are there any common pitfalls school sites fall into (like trying to include everything but the kitchen sink!!)
  • What are your tips / best practice?

If you can answer these and include some examples, Ill make sure all the schools get name checked in the magazine or online.

If any companies that help schools with websites, then get in touch also.

EDIT: Thanks for all the replies so far. If you have practical advice then please feel free to include it below.

EDIT: You can read the article and the replies used in June’s edition of ICT Matters, and here. If you want to subscribe to ICT Matters and / or Education Executive please subscribe here.

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7 thoughts on “What makes a good school website?

  1. So many elements!
    We build school websites all day, every day. Here’s a summary of some of the points we think matter:

    1. Great design
    - the design positions the school; a clear interface helps parents use the site (assuming that’s the primary audience).

    2. Good, targeted content
    - well written content that’s clearly signposted; if it can be broken down into digestible chunks, so much the better

    3. Regulary updated
    - recent news items, school calendars, image galleries etc

    Things to avoid:
    - too much content, especially on the home page
    - not enough photos (they’re great for adding interest to a page)
    - launching a site then never updating it
    - ‘over design’ i.e. something that’s so involved, it becomes very difficult to update, detracts from the content and dates very quickly

    We’ve written a blog post with more thoughts on this subject:
    http://www.greenschoolsonline.co.uk/blog/index.php/2011/02/10-tips-to-make-the-most-of-your-school-website/118/

  2. I agree with Graham but would like to add a bit more…

    You need to ask yourself; who is looking and the site, and why?

    A list of users might look like…

    Parents
    Potential staff members
    Students
    Sponsors
    Governors
    Local Government Officers
    Suppliers
    Journalists
    Community members (including businesses)
    Who else?

    What does the user need to get from their visit?
    Schools and colleges need to comprehensively address this question…

    Also, what does the school/ college need to get from the website?
    This list might look like…

    Better reputation
    Accurate messaging
    More students
    Communication with parents
    Brand building / strengthening
    News sharing and announcements

    The site needs to be memorable, engaging, simple to use and bespoke. No two schools are the same and your site needs to reflect your school’s strengths and character. It needs to ‘speak’ to your audiences appropriately.

    The site needs to be accessible, reliable and have a fully functioning content management system that is simple to use. It also needs to have ‘growing room’, to be able to incorporate new technical developments and not ‘fall over’ as the technical demands of the site grow.

    I believe that schools and colleges should take their websites as seriously as their prospectuses and their uniforms – you never know who’s looking!

  3. This is very interesting information so far. I absolutely agree that you need to know your target market and the website needs to be regularly updated. Do people think there is still a need for a separate school brochure/prospectus if your school website is detailed and effectively sells your school ‘brand’?

  4. I would say absolutely Graham, whilst the website does part of the branding job I would consider it as part of the mix, not the entire story.

    When we put EdExec together we consider how our readers use the magazine and website, there is a place for both. I think this rings true for people approaching a school.

    I would embrace as many ways as possible to get my message out there.

  5. Pingback: School Websites: Crowd sourcing your thoughts « Techno Geek

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